Joey deVilla describes himself as an experienced, engaging, accordion-playing, golden-voiced developer advocate looking for a new role. He’s had a long career in the technology space and writes about his experiences in two long-running blogs, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the Twenty-First Century and Global Nerdy. Recently, Joey became one of the many people in tech who’s lost their job in the last couple of years. That is the subject of our conversation today.

Show notes

Show notes include Amazon affiliate links. We get a small commission for purchases made through these links.

If you're enjoying the show, please rate or review us in Apple's podcast directory:

This episode's transcript was produced by an AI. If you notice any errors, please get in touch.


Jorge: Joey, welcome to the show.

Joey: Ah, thank you for having me, Jorge.

Jorge: I’m very excited to have you here. I have been aware of you and your work for a very long time. You came to my attention via your blog, which, I’m going to see if I can recall the name, it’s the Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st century.

Joey: That is correct.

Jorge: I have to say this upfront before we get into the meat of the conversation. I think you have an incredible talent for storytelling. Your blog is one that I encountered fairly early on in the blogosphere, and I always found both insightful and entertaining. So I wanted to thank you for that. Other than as a blogger, what do you do? How do you introduce yourself?

About Joey

Joey: First of all, thanks for reading the blog. Secondly, I introduce myself as somebody who likes to talk to both computers and people in equal amounts. My career has basically been bouncing between developer and developer advocate. It’s work that I like. As I like to say, I love talking to computers and I love talking to people. So any line of work that lets me do both is fantastic for me. As a hobby that got out of control, I also play the accordion.

Jorge: Hence, the Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st century.

Joey: Yes. That was me trying to take up being a street musician as a hobby when I lived in Toronto, which is a great place to be a street musician. My first day out turned out so well that I ended up deciding, I’m just going to carry this instrument wherever I go.

Jorge: I get the sense from your blog and from your online persona that the accordion has become part of your persona in some ways. I’ve had the privilege of meeting you in person at a World IA Day event many years ago in Tampa. At that point, I had already been reading your blog for several years. It wasn’t until afterwards, during the reception for that event, that I saw you lugging around the accordion. I was like, “No, it can’t be!” And yes, it was you. So the accordion thing is very memorable.

I suspect that we have a lot to talk about. I love this description of you being someone who talks to both computers and people. We could discuss that, but that’s not the reason why I reached out to have this conversation. The reason I reached out is because you’ve been very forthcoming on your blog about your recent experience being laid off. I know several people in that situation, and I found your blog posts on the matter to be very grounding and insightful. They came from a good place, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I wish I could share this with my listeners.” So, I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about that experience.

Joey: First off, in blogging about getting laid off this year, I am actually copying notes from my two previous layoffs. So this is actually the fifth layoff in my career. If you ask around, you’ll find that for many people, this isn’t their first layoff. In fact, I have a friend here in Tampa who’s been laid off 12 times. He also works in technology. It’s apparently an occupational hazard in our field.

The Importance of Openness and Communication

Joey: But I have found that actually talking about it shortens the time between your getting laid off and your next gig, just letting people know about it.

I think part of it is simply that by letting people know that you’re available, you’re just increasing the odds that you will be found by somebody who is looking for someone at a certain point. And I think the other thing is, I think it also surprises people into also talking about their experiences. There’s a kind of stigma, actually, where people are going, “Oh God, if I tell people, if I tell people I got laid off, I’m broadcasting that I have somehow failed.”

And at the same time, also there are people who have… I have received some emails and texts and messages from people who are going, “When I read your articles, I didn’t know whether to contact you or not, and I decided to do it because I didn’t want to bother you,” or it felt weird for some reason. And because it is a regular occupational hazard, probably not just in our industry but in the 21st-century working world, we probably should de-stigmatize this sort of thing and just normalize it: “Hey, you know what? My company let me go. Here’s my experience. I’m looking for the next thing.”

Jorge: I hear where you’re coming from with the idea that maybe in the past there was more of a stigma around this stuff. But I do think that it is becoming more normalized. And I’m thinking here of the green label in LinkedIn profile pictures. It says “open to work,” right? Which feels to me like something that I see more, and just the very fact that LinkedIn has baked it into the architecture of their system helps destigmatize it a little bit.

But the other thing I’ll say here is that this is not an experience that I’ve had myself. I can empathize with the situation you’re going through. And I have to say, I’m sorry that this has happened to you. But I’ve been self-employed most of my career. When I reached out to you to be on the show today, I experienced what you’re describing too. I sent an email that basically said, “I’m sorry that this happened to you. Would you want to come on the show to talk about it?” The next morning, I woke up and thought, “Oh my gosh, was that insensitive? Should I not have done that?” And you wrote a very gracious email. So I’m glad that you’re saying these things because I think it helps with the process of destigmatizing it.

Joey: I think the other thing is that, in my case, I’m fine with it because in over 20 years of blogging at this point, I have talked about some embarrassing things. And I am an extrovert, so it might be possible that I have a much higher embarrassment threshold than some other people.

You mentioned the green badge in LinkedIn, the “open to work” badge that you can attach to your profile photo. There has been a debate on LinkedIn. There have been some discussions as to whether you should do that or not when you’re looking for work.

And there have been people who have put forth arguments going, “No, don’t do that. It makes you look bad.” I never really bought into those arguments, but there are people who do say, “No, don’t put that open to work badge on your profile photo.” It varies. I’m very sure it varies with the individual.

Jorge: I’m glad you’re calling out the extrovert/introvert thing because when you said earlier that it helps to talk with people, I can imagine that for some folks it’s easier than others. Just the fact that you have been writing for so long, like you said, about some pretty personal stuff and also the accordion thing is yet another thing where it’s like you — I get the sense from reading your blog that it’s means of almost like a portable icebreaker immediately. So you do get the sense that it’s a personality thing.

Joey: Yeah. I call it “social hardware.”

Jorge: Social hardware. I love that.

Joey: Yeah. If there exists social software, there must also exist social hardware, and that’s what the accordion is.

Jorge: Just to put a name to it, what I’m hearing here is that for folks who find themselves in this situation, at least from your perspective, it’s helpful to talk about it if, for no other reason, than it helps other people know that you’re available.

Joey: Yes.

Jorge: I’m wondering also if there are other reasons for doing that. In particular, getting some… I don’t know if the word is like release or… this must be a situation where you feel rejected or you feel like maybe there’s fear involved because the source of income has gone away. And, I’m wondering if reaching out to others also is helpful in that way, in just like getting support.

Joey: Yes, it is, especially the first time around. So, the first time I got laid off was in 2008, and that was during the whole financial crisis with mortgages, AIG, and Lehman Brothers. There was all this doom and gloom in the news and it was the first time I’d been laid off. Yeah, that was quite frightening.

Where now, five times down the road, you do build what I call emotional calluses. Just like guitar players build calluses on their fingers after pressing down on those strings for all that time. But yeah, there still is some anxiety. There still is some feeling of disappointment. It just means also having to come up with a new plan, because all of a sudden, the assumption that you would have this job for at least a little bit longer has been derailed, and you now have to rearrange and go through things like the job application and interview process if you decide you want to work for somebody else.

If you decide to go into business for yourself. And I know people who have done that after a layoff. There are also a bunch of concerns, including “Wow, I’ve got to do all the things to set up the business. I have to chase after customers,” that sort of thing. And that’s a job interview in itself: finding your next clients. So it is nice to have that emotional catharsis.

Jorge: Like I said, I have not experienced being laid off as an independent consultant. I have experienced periods of time where I’ve had no projects, right? That’s something that happens when you are on your own. The experience has been slightly different than if you lose a recurring paycheck, but your sources of income have dried up, all the same. It can be very stressful. Now, one of the things that I appreciated so much about your posts, and at this point, I don’t know how many you’ve written. I think I counted six or seven yesterday.

Joey: I might be at eight by now.

Jorge: They’re coming fast and furious, right? But, I was hoping that you would recap, in particular, some of the things that you laid out in the first couple of posts for folks. The reason I’m asking this is because you’ve talked about emotional calluses, right? Putting aside the emotions that someone might feel when something like this happens, there are very practical things that need to be done. One of the things that I appreciated about this sequence of posts you shared is that you’re kind of laying out a plan: what do you need to do when this happens?

Joey: Yes. Okay. Some of that is actually revisions of earlier posts from earlier layoffs. But part of it was, yeah, I was… one thing I was doing was I was thinking by writing and then publishing. It’s a concept I actually stole from my friend and former employer from way back, Cory Doctorow, who once wrote an article called, I think the title was “My Blog, My Outboard Brain.” Basically, I am following that sort of formula with my blog posts, starting with writing about the experience of being notified in the first place.

And yeah. This layoff was particularly irksome because the first thing I got was an email. The first email I received was basically a general one to all employees, saying, “Look, we’re doing a reduction in force. If you are one of the people going to be laid off, you’ll receive another email sometime in the next 15 minutes.” That is the worst. That is torment.

And I decided, “You know what, rather than keep refreshing the email client, I’ll just set a timer on my phone, make myself a coffee, and go, “Okay, if it happens, it happens.” And that’s what happened to about 400 of us. After that, I just talk about outlining, “You know what, these are the things I’m going to do next.”

I know that it’s not just my 400 coworkers, but it’s also at least this year, I think it has crossed the 10,000 mark of people being laid off just from the tech industry just in 2024. So I figured, let’s share some tips. Let’s put some good out there. Oftentimes, helping other people does help yourself.

And I said, you know what, the very first thing you should do is actually just get away from your desk and, weather and climate permitting, go outside. Go for a walk. No headphones, no podcasts. Just go outside and experience the world and pay attention to things.

Because you’ve got to get used to this. Your world for the next little while is something that you’re going to have to look at through different lenses. So this is a way to mentally prep yourself. It’s also a way to distance yourself from the shock and the anxiety and every other emotion that is part and parcel of the dreaded layoff message.

Jorge: I love this advice of getting away from the desk. That’s something that I’ve found useful in lots of circumstances, just reconnecting with the body and kind of getting out of your own head. There was something else that really stood out to me about the approach you wrote about in the post. I’m not going to do it justice here, but maybe you can recap it for listeners. You were requested to have this meeting with your manager and the HR person, and I got the sense that you came to this meeting with a very constructive demeanor. I don’t know if you can speak to that, but I thought it was very insightful.

Dealing with Human Beings

Joey: Okay. For starters, I’ll admit that I had the advantage of actually having the 15-minute lay-off meeting with people I know. Oftentimes, when people get a lay-off meeting, they’re talking to people they’ve never met before. It might be an outside HR person or the George Clooney character from Up in the Air — the lay-off specialist. So, a complete stranger.

Whereas, these two people I knew. I knew the HR person. And then, the other person was my manager’s manager, basically the head of developer relations. And not only had I met them via Zoom or video chat, but also in person at offsite events. So these weren’t strangers. These were people I knew.

And the other thing is I gave myself some time to prepare mentally for the conversation, and I saw their names on the list and I just reminded myself that I was not the only person they were going to have this terrible, difficult conversation with. They were going to have to do it with at least a dozen people, from my count.

So, I knew that it was rough. And I also knew that since they were both on the West Coast, US, and I’m on the East Coast US, for me, it was 9:30 in the morning. For them, it was 6:30. What a terrible thing to have to do at that time of day. I just tried to put myself in their shoes. And finally, you know what, at that point, they also were not directly responsible for the decision. Why approach it with anger?

In the end, it’s just about trying to bring as much professionalism as possible in the bad times. It’s easy to be a pro when things are going fantastic. The real test is, can you be a professional when it gets rough.

Jorge: What stood out to me here was the degree of empathy that you showed to these people. Like you’re saying, they’re people too, and this is not pleasant for them either. What strikes me in hearing you talk about it now is that this connects to the way that you introduced yourself about translating between computers and people somehow in that what we’re talking about here is being on the receiving end of what can be a kind of fairly impersonal system, right? Like the decision to lay off people, particularly in situations like this where there are mass layoffs happening, it’s not something that is happening necessarily to an individual; it’s something that is happening for systemic reasons and the individuals are on the receiving end.

But there are people involved. And this notion that you translate between systems and human speak, so to speak, is coming across here, right? It feels like you’re trying to make the best out of this situation where both you and the people who are having to have this conversation with you are being put in this situation through circumstances that are not of your own making.

Joey: Oh yeah, that’s right. And the other thing, of course, is I think would also help was the fact that these days, at least, even though we were separated by a great distance, we were still doing it by video. We were looking at each other. And there are some people who dismiss the fact that, “Oh wow, is there a lot of information transmitted just in a single look.” In fact, actually, I don’t know who said it, but, there was somebody who said something about the best information compression system in the world is a wink.

Jorge: I like that.

Joey: Yeah, there’s just so much data transmitted just in a single look. And I saw it in the HR person, and I basically just told them. I felt really bad for them, and I’m going, “Look, it’s going to be all right. I’ve been through this before, and I know it’s not you. I have a couple of questions, just some information about what happens next, but yeah, let’s do this.”

Jorge: And that would be in contrast, I would imagine, to a worst-case scenario, which would be something like you get an email or a text message, where you can’t even see the person. And this feels to me like a good place to mention this. I think that you might have alluded to this or even touched on it directly, but these situations can be very different, right? You can have an experience like the one that you’re describing where you get to talk to people, and not just people, but people you know, and you get to do it over a channel where you can see their bodily expressions and gestures and such. And that’s a very different experience from something more impersonal.

The other thing that I think is worth noting here, and again, I’m just saying this because this is such a sensitive issue and can be so painful to people, that I would expect that for some people losing their primary source of revenue from one moment to another might be more impactful than for other people, right? If somebody has money in the bank or whatever, they have some runway where they can afford to be in this situation for a little while at least, whereas other people might be facing a situation where they have to leave their homes or stuff like that. So I think it’s worth acknowledging that situations are very different.

Joey: Absolutely. And I think I wrote somewhere that, yeah, you know what? I’m not in a particularly dire situation. Just about everything is paid off, except for the house. And I like to joke that actually the house payoff is about three or four MacBooks away.

Jorge: That’s a great unit of measure. So it’s about one Vision Pro.

Joey: Yeah, there are actually a couple of Vision Pros away.

Jorge: That’s a current unit of measure with Apple, I think.

Joey: Yeah. I think there was an article a few years back where the iPhone was a unit of currency, and some people actually got compensated with a new iPhone for short-term temporary jobs. So it’s, yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I find it an amusing unit of currency. But yeah, that’s the thing is that I’m in a situation where, you know, and also my wife, Anitra, is still employed. In fact, actually, I feel like I’m almost the wrong guy to interview for this particular case.

The Importance of Having a Network

Joey: Because the other thing I also have is, as a result of my work, I have a reasonably sizable social network that I can work from right from the minute after it happens. In fact, my initial post before I went for my bike ride was just on LinkedIn. It was a one-liner and basically just saying, “Got laid off, details to follow.” And people contacted me after that because I had a reasonably sizable network. And that’s the benefit of 25 years of working in public as well. There are people I know who are in a much worse situation than I am, and I do what I can to help them out as well.

Jorge: Yeah, this is a reminder of the importance of people, of our relationships with people. I’m guilty of focusing on my work and doing things like writing, teaching, podcasting, or what have you, and focusing on the content of the work at the expense of the relationships with other people. But ultimately, it’s the relationships that get everything to happen. When I think back, every good thing that I’ve had in my career has come through the people that I’ve met along the way. And I’m going to try to articulate it like this just because I want to have concrete actionable things for listeners, is that if there’s one thing that you can start doing now to become more resilient, it’s to start cultivating relationships. Is that fair?

Joey: Oh, absolutely. In fact, I like to say life is a team sport. So, yes, absolutely. Generally, one of the reasons is that a network exposes what I like to think of as your opportunity surface area. The people you know may be exposed to other things just by virtue of being different people that you might not be exposed to, might hear of things that you might not hear about, and vice versa.

You will know and hear about things that people in your network haven’t heard about, and if you work collectively, synergistically, you can all lift each other up. And that’s why we form communities. There is a developer community and there is an IA community. In fact, that’s how I got to meet you in person because I know Amy here in Tampa who organized World IA Day, where we all got together and all got to meet. And yes, that created this podcast opportunity, that chance meeting. And just by going to that event and going, “You know, IA is slightly outside of my area of concentration and expertise, but sometimes I like to try something different because I get to meet new people, I learn new things, and you never know what will come of it.”

Jorge: I’m going to reflect that back to you because, again, I want to make it very concrete and actionable for folks. It’s not just cultivating relationships. I’m also hearing that it’s important to cultivate relationships that have greater diversity, right? Like diversity of subjects, diversity of communities, diversity of perspectives. Right?

Joey: Oh, sure. It’s no fun to look out of just one window.

Jorge: And to your point, looking out just one window will kind of limit the opportunities that you’re exposed to, right? Because you only have that one view.

Joey: Yeah. You know what, and today we have way more avenues for getting different views and seeing different things and just trying out something that’s outside our normal experience. So yeah, absolutely do it.

Jorge: Perfect. As we start winding down here, I was wondering if you could summarize. Like I said, I know several folks who are in the situation where they’ve been laid off and are looking for their next job. And I was wondering if you had any more pointed advice for these folks. Maybe tactical things that they can do now so that they don’t get caught in a funk and find ways of moving forward.

Practical Advice for Those Laid Off

Joey: Okay. For starters, I would say, get out there. And I do mean that literally. For instance, if you live in an area that does have meetups related to your particular field, go attend those things. And, in my case, actually after one layoff, because that meetup didn’t exist, I started it.

And it’s still an ongoing thing, and it brought people to me or, in the case of attending people, it brought me to people. And, for one, just human contact is actually great. Human contact is a good cure for anxiety, or at least it helps with it. The other thing is it creates opportunity.

The other thing I would say is, you know what, if you like using social media, even if you have nothing to write about yourself, I would say just at least say, “Hey, look at this thing I found,” or “Here’s this article I found interesting.” Or “Here’s a diagram that I think is relevant.” Start posting that regularly. I would especially say that on LinkedIn because what you’re doing is you’re generating signal that recruiters and hiring people who are paying for the $10,000-a-month version of LinkedIn, with all the search tools, will find.

And then finally, if you decide to upskill or learn, learn in public, share what you’re learning. Once again, it helps other people. It actually helps you learn, and it also generates more of that very valuable signal that will help you get found and help you land either your next gig or your next customer.

Jorge: I love this idea of learning in public. It’s something that’s actually come up in the podcast before, and I keep rediscovering the value of it. And I’ll say from my own perspective, it can be intimidating to post things that are half-thought-through or not thought through at all. But I do think that it’s very important.

And I’m also glad that you mentioned the meetup thing, and specifically not just attending meetups, but if you don’t find that they’re happening, just organizing them yourself. I know you’ve already said that you’re an extrovert, but again, because I follow you on social media and I am subscribed to your blog posts, I feel like I know a lot about the scene happening in Tampa, even though I’m not there. And, like you said, we are not exactly in the same community, but I get the sense that if I ever find myself in Tampa, you’re the person that I would go to connect me to what’s going on, just because you’ve shared it. And we have incredible tools to do that.

Joey: Actually, that was also a layoff tactic. One of my plans was I was going to create this list. My plan was to create a list of tech entrepreneur nerd events happening in Tampa every week, and then wind it down when I landed the job. But when I landed the job and wound it down, I got a lot of emails going, “Where’s the list?”

And I’m going, “Okay, I guess I’m doing it now permanently.” And I had been doing it manually before, and I’m going, “Okay, I better write a script that will help me generate this list by combing all the Meetup and Eventbrite events, or filtering out anything that wasn’t relevant, and helping me assemble this thing a lot faster.” Because it was beginning to take an entire Saturday afternoon, whereas now I can do it in about half an hour and it’s a service and people like it, and it helps make a better scene here too. People can actually find things. So, it’s good for everybody involved. And I just find that, you know what? When you have the time, like when you’re laid off, actually doing something that’s useful to at least one other person is great. You develop skills, you develop yourself. You make your local environment a little bit better. Why not? It’s win-win all around.

Jorge: This sounds like positive advice no matter what the circumstance. So, I want to thank you for being so open and sharing as you have been through all these years


Joey: Well, hey, thanks for the opportunity to share. I love this sort of thing.

Jorge: So Joey, where can folks follow up with you and maybe consider hiring you because you’re now on the market, right? And I wanna wish you the best of luck in your job search. But where can folks read up more on you?

Joey: Okay, there are two blogs. There is my original blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century. That was a placeholder title that never went away, that you can find that at And that’s just my whatever-enters-my-head blog. I also have a technology blog, more work-related that is Global Nerdy was generated by a little application I wrote when I worked at Tucows that randomly generated available domain names for you.

Jorge: Oh, I love that. All right, so folks can follow up with you at either of those two sites. And are you also on LinkedIn?

Joey: Yes, I am. So, yeah, it should be easy to find. There’s only one Joey deVilla on LinkedIn, so

Jorge: Well, awesome, Joey, thank you so much for being here and sharing with us.

Joey: Yeah, thank you for having me.